Satire 101: Julie Schumacher’s ‘Doodling for Academics’

Written by Julie Schumacher and illustrated by Chicago artist Lauren Nassef, this coloring and activity book cleverly pokes fun at life in academia. Connect with us on social media to enter our giveaway of Doodling for Academics!


Doodling for Academics is just the distraction academics have been waiting for. Written by Julie Schumacher and illustrated by Chicago artist Lauren Nassef, this coloring and activity book cleverly pokes fun at life in academia while also slyly noting issues ranging from unbalanced funding choices of universities to unsupportive relatives of those who pursue the noble (yet often menial) profession of higher education.

With this book, Schumacher invites her peers to engage with different tasks crowding the day in the life of an academic. It’s easy to laugh—and wince—along with Schumacher’s point of view. We spoke with Schumacher about her inspiration behind the book, the realities of university culture, and, of course, the most invaluable skill for modern academics—composing clever dirty limericks.

We’ll also be doing a giveaway of Doodling for Academics this week! Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and tell us your most ridiculous memory of university life and we might send you a free copy.

Brittany Bommelman: Although the book is meant to be humorous, did you also intend for the “sad truth” element that brings to light how society looks at educators and the humanities? Between the “Financial Priorities” pages, the game of life, the cheering section, and the modes of transportation, I found myself sadly agreeing as often as I was smiling.

9780226467047_04d08Julie Schumacher: Yes, I think there is often a fine line between humor and sadness, or humor and anger or frustration.  That’s where satire comes in. I did certainly reference in the book a number of frustrations that I hope readers will identify with—from an image of the modern library (sans books) to an emphasis on football stadiums rather than academics.

Brittany Bommelman: Do you have plans to branch out with this book concept into any different vocations or subjects? I’ve seen generic coloring book treatments of other topics, but the humor element you provide really gives an interesting twist.

Julie Schumacher: That would be fun, but I confess I haven’t given those ideas much thought.  I’m so thoroughly invested in university culture—that’s where my warped imagination has its home.

Brittany Bommelman: I particularly liked the “Creative Process” page. Did you write the dirty limerick yourself?

Julie Schumacher: I did write that dirty limerick—thank you for noticing!  I am a dedicated prose writer, not a poet, so it took some considerable effort for me to write even a lousy restroom poem.

Brittany Bommelman: Since most of any coloring book is illustrated, what does your original manuscript look like? Did you start to draw or did you write down the concepts for each subject?

Julie Schumacher: I can’t draw at all, and I am sadly limited to the stick figure. Lauren Nassef brought the concepts wonderfully to life. My original manuscript consists of some thoughts scrawled down on a yellow legal pad; this in fact is what the early drafts of all my work look like because I write by hand.

Brittany Bommelman: I can’t imagine this was an easy process. Do you have advice for anyone else attempting a similar creative project?

Julie Schumacher: So many projects present themselves in our brains as potentially “easy,” and then reveal themselves—gotcha!—to be more complicated than we originally thought.  I suppose if we were to conceive of a project as difficult from the get-go, we might feel discouraged. Perhaps this is the brain’s way of offering us a little assistance.

Brittany Bommelman: Have you had any fans of the book contact you with their filled-in answers? I was looking for an answer key because I thought that there could be multiple answers to the puzzles. Is that on purpose or is there a correct answer to some?

Julie Schumacher: No, but I would love to see some filled in answers or a reader’s answer key! In my own English department at the University of Minnesota, the chair of the department scheduled a celebratory coloring day—students and faculty busy with crayons, coloring the book’s individual pages. The finished products are currently—of course—displayed on the department refrigerator in the main office.

Doodling for Academics
by Julie Schumacher, with illustrations by Lauren Nassef
University of Chicago Press
Published April 21st, 2017

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